Joseph Yam

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Yam.
The Honourable
Joseph Yam
Joseph Yam UBS.jpg
1st Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority
In office
April 1993 – 1 October 2009
Governor Chris Patten
Succeeded by Norman Chan
1st Director of the Office of the Exchange Fund
In office
Governor Chris Patten
Succeeded by Office Abolished
Personal details
Born Joseph YAM Chi-kwong
Nationality Hong Kong Chinese
Political party none
Alma mater University of Hong Kong
Occupation Retired
Profession Economist
Joseph Yam
Simplified Chinese 任志刚
Traditional Chinese 任志剛

The Honourable Joseph YAM Chi-kwong, GBM, GBS, CBE, JP (born 1948, Hong Kong)[1])[2] is a Hong Kong statistician, economist and civil servant. Yam was the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) from April 1993 to 1 October 2009. Since 2011 he has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Swiss Bank UBS AG. [3]


Yam graduated from the University of Hong Kong. He joined the Government of Hong Kong as a statistician in 1971, and became an economist in 1976. In 1982, he was appointed Principal Assistant Secretary for Monetary Affairs.[4]

In 1983, Yam helped formulate the peg between the Hong Kong dollar and US dollar.[5] He was appointed Deputy Secretary for Monetary Affairs in 1985 and Director of the Office of the Exchange Fund in 1991.[4] When the Office of the Exchange Fund merged with Office of the Commissioner of Banking in 1993, he became the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

Tenure as Chief Executive of HKMA[edit]

In 1995, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers voted him Banker of the Year.[6]

Despite a study conducted by S. K. Tsang, a Professor of Economics in Hong Kong Baptist University, indicating there were weaknesses of the HKD-USD exchange rate peg system[7] during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Yam did not amend the narrow-based peg, but defended the Hong Kong dollar by pushing up interest rates. He pushed the overnight Interbank rates up to 280% on 23 October 1997.[8]

In an audacious move, the HKMA also bought US$15 billion in stocks amidst the market panic in 1998. The measure restored calm, and consequently succeeded to defend the Hong Kong fixed exchange rate parity against the US dollar. The move was initially criticised by, amongst others, Alan Greenspan, who voiced concern in September 1998 that the strategy would fail and erode the credibility of the HKMA.[9] "It turned out that his timing was exquisite," Greenspan later said. "It was a risky action [which]... I wouldn’t recommend as a general rule for central banks."[9]

In 2007, Yam was the highest paid central banker in the world, with an annual salary of US$1.32 million, about seven times that of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve ($191,300).,[10] and approximately three times that of the President of the European Central Bank (EUR 351,816 in 2008), the Governor of the Bank of England (GBP 290,000 in 2008) and the Governor of the Bank of Japan ($370,000 in 2007)[11]

In 2008, he was summoned by the a subcommittee of Legislative Council of Hong Kong in a hearing regarding issues arising from Lehman Brothers-related Minibonds and structured financial products[12]

Convergence plan[edit]

Noticing the pricing differential between shares listed on both the local market (H-shares) and the Shanghai Stock Exchange (A-shares), Yam pushed for mechanisms to promoter greater convergence and arbitrage. Ignoring major obstacles pointed out by local brokers, he is credited with persuading the Government to take a 5.9% stake in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange as leverage, and then pushing the program[13] which allowed mainland individuals to buy Hong Kong securities directly by opening foreign-currency accounts at the Bank of China branch in northern Tianjin. The scheme was announced by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on 20 August 2007,[14][15] but stalled at the starting gate, when Beijing refused to grant permission.[16]


Yam confirmed on 19 May 2009 his plan to retire, after serving in his post for 16 years.[5] When it was originally announced in October 2007 that he would retire on 1 October 2009, financial columnist Jake van der Kamp linked Yam's departure with his handling of the A-share and H-share plans which destabilised Hong Kong's economy.[13]

Sir Donald Tsang described Yam as a "comrade in arm [sic] who acted in concert with the government in 1998 to overcome the Asian financial turmoil and under the present financial tsunami, Hong Kong's banking system has remained stable."[5] Yam is an honorary consultant of the People's Bank of China.[5]


He was awarded Doctor of Business Administration honoris causa by the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology in Nov 2009.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Home return" experiences
  2. ^ "Joseph Yam CV". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "People: UBS AG". Reuters. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Executive Profiles, HKMA official website
  5. ^ a b c d News at Seven-Thirty on 19 May 2009 (TV news broadcast). Hong Kong: TVB. 2009. 
  6. ^ "Joseph Chi Kwong YAM Doctor of Social Sciences". Honorary Degrees Congregation. The University of Hong Kong. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "A Study of the Linked Exchange Rate System and Policy Options for Hong Kong", S. K. Tsang, Professor of Economics, HKBU
  8. ^ "HKMA's Response to Views of Market Practitioners and Academics on the Linked Exchange Rate System", Legco Papers
  9. ^ a b Scott Lanman (19 May 2009). "Greenspan Says Hong Kong's Yam Was Right to Buy Stocks in 1998". Bloomberg. 
  10. ^ Catherine Rampell (27 March 2009). "(Central) Bankers’ Salaries". New York Times. 
  11. ^ Kathy Lien (26 March 2009). "Updated! Salaries of Central Bank Governors". 
  12. ^ Legislative Council Subcommittee to Study Issues Arising from Lehman Brothers-related Minibonds and Structured Financial Products
  13. ^ a b Jake van der Kamp, Monitor, South China Morning Post, 30 October 2007
  14. ^ Gita Dhungana, "Early 1,000-point surge recedes on profit-taking", The Standard, 22 August 2007
  15. ^ Gita Dhungana, "China's own Frankenstein", The Standard, 27 August 2007
  16. ^ Katherine Ng, "'Direct train' stuck at starting gate", The Standard, 28 August 2007
Government offices
Preceded by
Deputy Secretary for Monetary Affairs
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Director of the Office of the Exchange Fund
Succeeded by:
New office Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority
Succeeded by
Norman Chan
Order of precedence
Preceded by
Hari Harilela
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal
Hong Kong order of precedence
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal
Succeeded by
Ronald Arculli
Recipient of the Grand Bauhinia Medal